In May, I told you about a new study that found just 8 percent of recommendations made by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) were supported by research from randomized, controlled, clinical trials (RCTs). Remember, RCTs are the “gold standard” of evidence used by physicians to guide their clinical practices.
But now, even the strength of RCTs is under question…
In a new, disturbing analysis, researchers “put some kind of spin on” two-thirds of the RCTs about cardiovascular disease published in six prestigious journals between 2015 and 2017.
These dubious RCT reports appeared in:
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- The European Heart Journal
- The Journal of the American College of Cardiology
- The Lancet
- The New England Journal of Medicine
And here are the three main techniques the researchers used to “spin” their results:
1.) They split statistical hairs
When researchers’ got statistically “non-significant” primary outcomes, they didn’t call it quits. Instead, they simply split statistical hairs and drilled deeper into the numbers until they got the results they wanted.
These epidemiological “no-no’s” included performing all kinds of statistical tricks, including: within-group comparisons, secondary outcomes, subgroup analysis, or per protocol analysis. (Thirty-five years ago, I was personally cautioned never to use these types of analyses during my Ph.D. examinations for my graduate degree at Penn!)
2.) They interpreted statistically “nonsignificant” outcomes
The researchers also ploughed ahead and interpreted results that lacked significance of their primary outcomes. Which is kind of like a food critic evaluating a meal that never made it to their table by writing about what they thought the food should taste like.
3.) They ignored the elephant in the room
Finally, in their interpretation, the researchers blatantly ignored their lack of significant results. Instead, they simply emphasized the supposed “beneficial” effects of the treatment.
In turn, 53 scientific abstracts and 62 main texts used at least one of these “spin” techniques. Plus, all three techniques were found in 26 abstracts and 18 main texts. And about half of the conclusions included some kind of spin!
It’s appalling, really.
Criminals get away with crimes thanks to their fancy lawyers. But scientists just need fancy statisticians.
One author suggested that researchers may resort to these fictional embellishments because they’re afraid studies with negative findings won’t get published. Indeed, they shouldn’t get published. Or if they do, be honest about the statistically “nonsignificant” outcomes!
I’ll continue to call out these kinds of worthless studies when I come across them. So, keep reading my Daily Dispatch and monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures, to stay up to date. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started. Click here to sign up today!
In addition, you can learn all about the iron-clad science on preventing and even reversing heart disease in my online learning tool, the Heart Attack Prevention & Repair Protocol. To learn more or to sign up today, click here!
“CV Research Spin Abundant in the Era of Alternative Facts.” Medscape Medical News, 5/3/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/912571)